Reading guide for Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Austerlitz

By W.G. Sebald

Austerlitz
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    300 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2002,
    304 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. In what ways can Sebald's work be said to create a new genre? Do we know whether to take Austerlitz as fact or fiction?

     
  2. Why do you suppose Sebald incorporates photographs into his work? To what effect?

     
  3. Where does the name Jacques Austerlitz come from? Why do you think Sebald chose it?

     
  4. What is the relationship between past and present throughout the book? What tricks does Sebald play with the passage of time? What does Austerlitz have to say on his experience of time?

     
  5. What sort of mood does Sebald's use of language create throughout the novel? How does Sebald's language function in the same way that character and plot do in a more traditional novel?

     
  6. Some critics have called attention to Sebald's wan sense of humor–a "low-key gallows humor." What examples of this humor can you find in the book?

     
  7. What type of architecture most appeals to Austerlitz? What do you make of this fascination?

     
  8. Various animals appear throughout the novel. What does the novel make of the relationships between humans and other creatures, and between all animals–humans included–and their environment? How do animals in the novel orient themselves, and what does it mean, throughout, to become literally dis-oriented?

     
  9. What does the novel have to say about the mind's defenses against great trauma?

     
  10. At the novel's end, Austerlitz tells the narrator of a Jewish cemetery located just behind his house in London, behind a wall, whose existence he'd only discovered during his last days in the city. How does the discovery of the cemetery replicate Austerlitz's discovery of his heritage, and what does this link suggest about the connection between physical artifacts and the workings of memory? In what way could it be said that this cemetery's presence in the novel honors the durability of the world of European Jewry that Nazi Germany attempted to expunge?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Modern Library. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Man Called Ove
    A Man Called Ove
    by Fredrik Backman
    Reading A Man Called Ove was like having Christmas arrive early. Set in Sweden, this debut novel is ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Search
    by Geoff Dyer
    All hail the independent publisher! In May 2014, Graywolf Press brought two of long-revered British ...
  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  34The Arsonist:
    Sue Miller
  2.  171The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.